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Making your mark on Bristol’s music scene

Miya Lacey quizzes two up-and-coming artists and promoters on how to get your music into as many ears as possible

Bristol made waves in the 90s underground music scene with artists such as Portishead and Massive Attack, and it’s still recognised as a hub of culture, creativity and expression. Bristol also had a huge influence on sound-system culture, and following the emergence of the ‘Bristol Sound’ – also known as trip-hop – in the 80s and 90s, Bristol earned its place in the musical hall of fame. The ‘Bristol Sound’ can be identified as a dark, yet uplifting variation of hip-hop, and its lasting influence on Bristol’s sound today is undeniable, with hip-hop, grime and dubstep continuing to dominate. UK Music’s ‘Bristol Live Music Census’ revealed that live music contributed £123 million to the local Bristol economy in 2015, which goes to show just how much influence music has on our city. Over the years, Bristol has become a melting pot of artists and promoters who are keeping its grassroots spirit alive.

However, as more and more people are taking to the internet to promote themselves, what was once considered ‘underground’ seems to have become overground. Opportunities for aspiring artists and promoters in Bristol are changing. Nowadays, everyone and their mother seem to be promoting their latest EP or event – but what does it take to make a name for yourself outside of your circle of friends? As it has become so easy to promote yourself through things like flyering and social media, new talent is being drowned out by a deafening chorus of aspiring musicians.

Whether you’re promoting music or events, if you’re serious about what you’re doing, it’s important to look at it from a business perspective. This is what will set you apart from those who have built a recognisable image and brand from the many who are still confined to their bedrooms. Do you think you have what it takes? Are you wondering what your next step should be? I got in touch with two promoters and artists based in Bristol. They’ve made a name for themselves both at home and abroad, so I asked them for some nuggets of wisdom for anyone hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Drapes

Tell me who you are and what you do.
My name’s Drapes – I’m a rapper, photographer, videographer and artist manager from Bristol.

What kind of opportunities and advantages has Bristol provided for you as an artist?
There aren’t any big record labels in Bristol, so it’s more about individual artists trying to make music. There’s loads of people to work with as opposed to loads of people investing money into big record labels. To someone from a small town, Bristol would seem like a huge step up and people would want to move here to collaborate with other artists. Having lived in Bristol all my life, I find myself looking at cities like London and Birmingham and wanting to make my name down there. I guess it’s all about scale.

Which genre do you feel is most influential in Bristol at the moment?
I would have to say rap, specifically hip-hop. Bristol’s got a few grime artists but hip-hop is the one that seems to be the most popular. There’s also a big reggae/dub scene, loads of independent bands and electronic music – everything’s popping off really.

Would you say that there’s a sense of community and support between competing artists in Bristol?
There is definitely a sense of community between artists – like I said, there’s no big record labels in Bristol, so we’re all trying to help each other from each other’s bedrooms and that. You might have one person mixing and mastering, one person recording everything, one person doing the videos and one person rapping. But that being said we are all trying to outdo each other at the same time. I’d have to say that there is a community vibe with a bit of friendly competition.

What advice do you have for budding artists who want to stand out in such a competitive scene?
Represent yourself properly, I see a lot of people uploading poor quality pictures and it looks unprofessional. People also tend not to put the time and effort into making actual projects or albums. I think if you actually want to succeed then you have to take it seriously. Make sure you’re paying for proper videos and photoshoots – if not, get a friend to do it if they have the right equipment. Once you’ve made your full project, make sure you get it distributed properly. Nowadays you can go on websites like cdbaby.com and distrokid.com, they put your music onto all digital platforms and it only costs about £25. Make sure you also sign up to PRS, they collect all your royalties if you get played on the radio. It costs about £100 but is so worth it.

CNCPT

Tell me who you are and what you do.
CNCPT Collective are a multi-functioning record label and events company. We also design and sell our own  clothing and release music and podcasts monthly. We have also staged thirteen events since starting, ranging from 100 to 700 capacity venues.

What were the main challenges you faced trying to make a name for yourself in Bristol? What did you find was the most effective method of promoting yourself?
It’s tough to book venues in Bristol because of the competition, however I would say that the biggest challenge is that there’s always a risk of losing a big amount of money from an event and having to start up again. Properly utilising social media platforms and physical promotion [posters and flyers] can be effective, however the majority of our generation are on social media all day, so it is good to capitalise on that.

How have you branched out of Bristol?
We were lucky enough to team up with Sub.Mission, who are based in Denver. They are the largest dubstep promoter in the world, so this was huge for us considering we were only founded two years ago. This was set up through one of our resident DJs ‘The Greys’ who has toured America a few times – he asked if we wanted to launch Sub.Mission’s first UK show, which was great. After this people have definitely started to recognize us outside of Bristol.

 How do you feel that people can best take advantage of the opportunities that Bristol provides for promoters?
It’s our job as promoters to book local artists to showcase their talent, otherwise they wouldn’t be booked at all. There is definitely a competitive environment for events in Bristol, but I think it’s healthy and is probably why Bristol is one of the best places for up-and-coming artists. Acts have the opportunity to play at a different club every week, something which isn’t the case in other cities. If you’re continually booking big artists, then people are obviously more likely to attend your events – this also helps to build a respectable brand image which is key if you want to expand.

There you have it – some valuable and relevant advice for anyone with a bedroom studio. Both Drapes and CNCPT Collective have a lot of exciting releases in store, so show some love and check out these links.

Drapes’ latest track Bristol Vernacular is ready for you on YouTube, with more to come from his channel. This song is taken from his latest EP Sick Little World which is also available hereAlso make sure you don’t miss CNCPT Collective’s latest album, ready to grace your ears right here.

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